BLOOMINGTON – For Lincoln-Way East, just getting to the second day of the IHSA Boys 3A Championship was an accomplishment. The Griffins finished seventh at The Den at Fox Creek, their total of 34-over 610 paced by sophomore Tanner Leonard’s even-par 144.
For Juney Bai of Lincoln-Way Central, it was a day to shine individually, and he did. Bai, a senior who says he’ll only play college golf as a walk-on, preferring to focus on academics, fired a second straight 2-under 70 to finish at 4-under 140 and take third place. Only Glenbrook North’s Jason Gordon (7-under 137) and New Trier’s James Pryor (139) were better.
For Lockport Township, which missed the eight-team cut on Friday by two strokes but still had five players teeing it up as individuals on Saturday, there was another goal. Show they belonged as a group.
The Porters did so. Their top four scorers added up to 615 strokes, the same as Prospect, which finished eighth and last in the team competition.
The IHSA instituted a cut a few years ago, which coaches protested against despite IHSA claims that it had been welcomed. The dispute still rankles some.
“It was weird,” said Brody McCarthy. “We were all pretty bummed out because we missed it by two. The whole cut thing was pretty stupid. We were only four shots out of fourth. So we thought we could go out, play as a team still, post a number, and then kind of put it in the IHSA’s face that the cut shouldn’t be there.
“Even though we weren’t playing as a team on paper, we felt we still were playing as a team.”
Sophomore Nathan Kwaitkowski led the Porters with 5-over 149. McCarthy was at 152, Joey Sluzas at 155, and Nick Barry scored 159. That 615 was as good as Prospect’s 615, only doesn’t exist to the IHSA. Lockport’s Kyle Kuhn was the fifth man at 166.
The Griffins were tied for seventh at daybreak but had notions of moving up the scoreboard. Stiff opposition, as much as a stiff south breeze reaching 14 mph at times, negated that possibility, but that four underclassmen were the scorers brings hope for the future.
“We knew we had some pretty good teams ahead of us,” coach Jim Nair said. “We wanted to play our game and go as low as we could go. I’m proud of the guys for hanging in and doing their best. Tanner had a great day.”
Leonard’s 144, which tied for eighth individually, was joined by scores from three juniors: Anthony Sambo (155), Dylan Drogemuller (156) and Colin Jungels (156). Senior Patrick Jungels (163) and junior Lincoln Haberkorn (166) also teed it up.
“The goal was just to go out and have fun,” Leonard said of his two-birdie day. “We achieved some goals this season none of the other (previous) teams did. We established monuments for teams to come. Today, it was just go at the pins and attack.”
Bai was challenging for the lead after an eagle on the par-5 fifth that he said came an inch from being an albatross. The golf gods apparently decreed there would be only one on Saturday, and it was made by someone wearing a different red shirt.
Hinsdale Central senior Jack Inabnit birdied his penultimate hole and flew a 170-yard 6-iron into the cup for an albatross on the par-5 ninth to cap his high school career and give the Red Devils third place over rival Glenbard West by four strokes. Glenbrook North won the team title with 1-under 575, beating rival New Trier by three strokes.
But Bai carried on and captured third, thus extracting revenge on the Arnold Palmer-designed course which had bit him for a couple of 80-plus scores in the past.
“I wanted to come out and play for myself today, since it was my final tournament,” Bai said. “Just make it memorable. I was 4-under through six holes, bogeyed a couple. But I tried to keep pushing. I had nothing to lose out here.”